Planing A Mediterranean Cruise
Summer is the major cruising season in the Mediterranean and the major cruise lines are well established in the market and offer a wide variety of itineraries. There are a number of similarities in most itineraries with the two main embarkation ports being Barcelona and the port for Rome, Civitavecchia. Venice, Italy is another popular embarkation port with some cruises to the eastern Mediterranean sail out of Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, Greece. Itineraries vary in length with cruises of around seven days usually including four or five ports of call, those of nine to eleven days make six to eight stops and fourteen day itineraries calling up to ten ports of call.
Cruises from Barcelona often stop at a series of ports east along the coast that usually include Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, located near to Nice and Monte Carlo. Favorite Italian ports visited include Rome/Civitavecchia, Naples and Venice, with Venice often being an overnight visit. Additional popular ports include Livorno, for its proximity to Pisa and Florence, along with Genoa on the west coast and Ravenna on the east coast.
Most cruises out of Rome/Civitavecchia go south and cruise around the Italian boot passing through the Straights of Messina. Popular destinations on shorter cruises (6 to 8 days) include Naples, Venice, Dobrovnik, Kotor in Montinegro, the Greek island of Corfu and Malta. Longer cruises can add Messina, the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Ephesus, Turkey and Athens.
There are also Rome itineraries that sail west and often include Livorno, Villefranche, Provence in France, with stops in the Spanish ports of Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca and at times Gibraltar.
With the popularity of cruising growing there are more and more returning passengers. The cruise companies are always looking to add new ports as an enticement to get them to cruise again. For that reason there are always differences and surprises in searching itineraries so look for one that hits your “must see” destinations.
There are some important things you need to consider when planning how you are going to get the most out of your cruise port visits. For most ports of call visits have a serious time limit and if you go off on your own you cannot be late returning to your ship. The ship just won’t normally wait for you. If you take a cruise sponsored tour the ship is obligated to get you and your fellow passengers back on board before sailing. That doesn’t mean that you are locked into taking only sponsored tours but you need to plan and allocate extra time getting back to the ship.
When making your plans there are a few ports that many people put high up on their list to visit when they decide to cruise the Mediterranean. Here we offer a few highlights along with ideas on getting the most from those all-to-brief stops.
Livorno with trips to Pisa and Florence – You can easily take a train from Livorno Centrale to Florence Santa Maria Novella for €6 and €14 per person one way. You do have to get from the pier to the train station but most cruises offer a shuttle service at a reasonable price into town center. In Livorno you can also buy a combination round-trip ticket that includes the train tickets and a bus to the train station that can be purchased at many convenience shops. The trip takes about one and a half hours and trains run about every half hour. In Florence from Santa Maria Novella you can walk into the historic district in only a few blocks. You can get to Pisa in much the same way but the train trip is only twenty minutes with a moderate walk to the Cathedral and old city walls.
Civitavecchia / Rome – This is a city that everyone should make an effort to visit. From the buildings of the ancient Roman Empire to the Vatican there are days worth of sightseeing to be experienced. There is good information on seeing Rome in one day HERE.
You can find a good article on getting into Rome HERE. In Civitavecchia the train station is a moderate walk along the waterfront from the port and a train to S. Pietro station (Vatican City) takes about 40 minutes. Fares start at €5 per person one way on the commuter trains and up to €20 round trip using regional trains. There is a manned ticket booth at the Civitavecchia station along with automated vending machines. A round-trip bus booked through the ship will cost over €80 and take about two hours depending on traffic.
Barcelona -Barcelona is one of the two largest cruise ports in the Mediterranean and is used as an embarkation port as well as a popular port of call. The city is a modern and historic place with a number of iconic neighborhoods and attractions. If you are cruising out of Barcelona do not miss the opportunity to spend a couple of extra days visiting this vibrant city.
There are 3 cruise terminals at the World Trade Centre pier called North, South and East terminals and are much closer to the Columbus Monument on the waterfront at La Rambla.
The third terminal is Sant Bertrand, and it to is near the World Trade Center (refer to our cruise terminal map). Sant Bertrand is usually used for ferries to the Balearic Islands.
Transportation – The T3 PORTBUS (the “Blue Bus”) runs a circuit from all cruise port terminals to the monument of Christopher Columbus. The tickets for the T3 need to be purchased with cash on the bus itself. Single ticket: €3.00, with Return ticket: €4.00. Many of the cruise ships also provide a shuttle bus to their passengers for free or a small charge (usually about $5 to $8). Getting to the Gothic Quarter by
taxi from the port is normally less than 10 minutes with a fare of about €20.00. A Taxi to Barcelona airport from the cruise port should take about 25 minutes with a fare: of €30.00 – €35.00.
,Barcelona is a city steeped in culture and history and many think it is the city itself that is the main attraction. From great food to an exciting night life, from the old Gothic quarter to the modern shopping districts this is truly a remarkable city. The Gothic Cathedral in the heart of the Gothic quarter is a must-see as is a walk up Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard starting at the waterfront featuring outdoor cafes, restaurants and shops. Make sure to save time to explore the winding side streets with more shops and restaurants. There are also a number of great museums in the city. The MACBA (museum of modern art) and the CCCB next door are worth an hour or two. The Picasso and the permanent Dalí exhibition in the Gothic Quarter are always worth a visit. The Caixa Forum is a museum which has different art exhibitions every month. It is just off Plaça Espanya, on Avenida Marques.
Venice – Cruise ships dock at the cities cruise port and most ships offer water shuttles into the area near Piazza San Marco. That’s a good option but you can also walk out of the port. With a good map or phone app you can navigate through the city and reach the Piazza in only about a mile and a half through a number of interesting neighborhoods.
Naples – This city is near to the ruins of the Roman city Pompeii and well worth the time , but Naples is also not far from the Amalfi coast. There are frequent Trains from Naples to the Amalfi Coast. To get from Naples to Salerno, you can take one of Trenitalia’s Alta Velocità (AV) trains from Napoli Centrale station. The trip is about 30 miles and there are also InterCity and Regionale trains serving this route, with over three dozen trains a day costing €5 each way. From the Positino station it is a good idea to know where you want to visit and take a taxi but this is still an easy day trip.
Piraeus and Athens – You can find a good piece on Piraeus HERE. The main attraction is the Acropolis in Athens and it’s well worth a day if this is your first visit. If you wold like to save a good amount over the cruise tours you can use the metro to travel from Piraeus to central Athens. A trip to Athens using the metro costs less than €1. Also a free shuttle bus usually operates in the port taking passengers from the ships to the metro station. Visiting the Acropolis has a general admission €10 and hours vary by season and day of the week. You should also expect a good uphill climb to reach the top but the is an elevator fro people with disabilities.
Villefranche-sur-Mer – You can find a good piece on Villefranche HERE. Less than a half mile around the waterfront is the train station where you can catch frequent trains to Monte Carlo, Nice or Cannes. They run about every twenty minutes and a trip to Monte Carlo takes only fifteen minutes and costs usually under €7.00. So before you sign up for that expensive tour consider some exploring on your own.